Saturday, June 1, 2019

Packaged Thoughts June 2019: A Bunch of Book Rambles

It's closing in on mid-year, and I'm back with another set of random ramblings for books I've read this year that I hadn't really gotten around to reviewing before now.  Of course, I also went ahead and threw in a couple books I just finished reading that I just couldn't really come up with a review for.

Without much else to say, let's just move onto the books!

Thanks for reading!

Shelter in Place
by Nora Roberts
Rating:  3.5 Stars

I actually read half of this book in December 2018 and the last half in January 2019.  That's a good six months ago, about, and I don't know if I remember much about it.  Nora Roberts tackles a pretty difficult subject with this book, something that we can relate with in the present.

While I think she does a pretty great job of it, the only thing I really remember was how dragged out it felt.  The beginning was pretty strong, and the idea of taking a look at how a mass shooting affected several survivors has potential.  And I get that she was trying to cover how the lives of certain key characters changed as a result of the mall shooting at the beginning of the book, but I can't help but feel like some tangents could have been cut out.

In a way, I recall thinking that the main villain of the book was a bit too over-powered... like, movie-style over-powered.  And I had issue with the main hero's constant innuendos, even if jokingly, about dumping our main heroine and getting together with her grandmother, if given the chance--I get that this was some silly running joke, and he wasn't actually ever going to do that, but the references got old pretty fast.  Yes, the grandmother was a fabulous person, but we didn't need that brought up every other paragraph.

Otherwise, Shelter In Place was a pretty intriguing read that managed to suck me in at some points, even if it also had my attention wandering at others.  This book is more slice of life and crime thriller than it was romance, so if you're coming into it looking for lots of romantic chemistry or the like, you won't actually get much of it.  Still, Nora Roberts delivers as usual, so I would skip it if you're a fan of hers.

Lethal White (Cormoran Strike #4)
by Robert Galbraith (a.k.a. J.K. Rowling)
Rating:  4.0 Stars

I'm not sure I've yet to properly review one of these Cormoran Strike books, if only because I'm not sure I have proper words for Queen Rowling's wonderful works.  Truth is, I'm immensely enjoying these crime thrillers, and absolutely love Cormoran and Robin as a working private investigation team.

While I still feel like The Silkworm is the best of the books so far, Lethal White doesn't fall very short of the genius-ness of this series.  Of course, that doesn't mean that I think Lethal White was perfect (not like The Silkworm was perfect).  In fact, I'm admittedly abashed to say that this particular installment might have been a bit overly long with some parts that dragged a little for me.  Not the mysteries or the tangential mysteries or the investigations, but the continued dragging out of Robin and Matthew's relationship, which I felt could have maybe been cut a little.  In fact, I could have sworn that I thought their relationship would have been over by the last book, so I was a bit surprised to walk into the book to find them getting married at the beginning.  I must have phased that out of my mind from the end of the previous book.

As I'd mentioned somewhere else, we already know that Robin and Matthew are all wrong for each other and that Matthew is a right jackass--we don't really need to be reminded of this for 80% of the book.  But maybe it was kind of symbolic that Robin needed to be reminded of why she was slowly falling out of love with Matthew.  I just wish that part of her reasons didn't have too much to do with her muddled feelings for Cormoran.  It's enough, I think, that Matthew is a jackass and that he's disrespectful of her decisions, her choice of career, her thoughts and opinions, and her happiness, right?  I needed her to leave Matthew and move on with her life for herself, not because of another man--that's probably the only thing that bugs me about this book, really.

Untouchable (Cutler, Sutter & Salinas #3)
by Jayne Ann Krentz
Rating:  4.0 Stars

This book didn't really stand out among the rest of JAK's books.  And I even sense a little bit of recycling in some of her plot devices, a la the lucid dreaming aspects.

However, it was still another charming, exciting, and entertaining Jayne Ann Krentz book, and I had no real complaints.

I did find it fun that JAK chose to crossover some parts of other books and other series.  The location of this book is Eclipse Bay and we get to see Arizona Snow featuring quite prominently.  Then the tourist town of Burning Cove is brought up as well.  I was almost expecting some Arcane Society characters to appear out of nowhere, specifically the fearless leader of Jones & Jones... though I suppose you can only really have one set of broody alpha male private investigators appearing at a time...

Murder on Astor Place (Gaslight Mystery #1)
by Victoria Thompson
Rating:  3.5 Stars

This book started out kind of slow, in spite of the murder, but quickly became interesting.  Sarah is a great main character to follow, with all the makings of a fearless, headstrong main female lead.  Frank on the other hand, took some warming up to, as he started off a bit rude, a bit broody, a bit chauvinistic, and a bit seedy.  I'm still not sure I like him much, and he plays into the typical cozy mystery male love interest trope of being Detective Jackass...  But he grows on you.

The mystery was interesting to start with, but I hate to say that the ending kind of got more and more convoluted... and you could see it getting there pretty quickly as the book progressed.  But otherwise, it was entertaining enough.  New York during the "turn of the century" is a new kind of historical setting for me, but I'm not sure I felt it any different than I felt something more modern or something more historical... if that makes any sense.

Nonetheless, I may continue with this one in the future.

The Scarlet Pimpernel (The Scarlet Pimpernel #1)
by Emmuska Orczy
Rating:  4.0 Stars

This book was so much fun, and if it hadn't been for the need to prioritize my reading time and my socializing time, I probably could have finished this book in less than half the time it actually took me.

While the story started off a little bit slow--partly so I could adjust to the language and the dramatics--once we get to Marguerite Blakeney's POV, everything just sort of takes off from there.  The progression just kept plowing forward, and the action kept right on rolling out.  Of course, the ending was a bit abrupt, and also a bit predictable, but that didn't take away from my enjoyment at all.

I'm going to be honest, I've never been able to really get along with a lot of classics, but if there are others out there written in the same vein as this book, I'm going to have reevaluate me reading lists, as well as my personal history with classics I've read before.

by Amanda Quick
Rating:  3.0 Stars

Another enjoyable Amanda Quick book... if you can overlook the pushy, asshole hero who is Sebastian.  Goodness, if I were Prudence, I probably would have given into temptation and kicked him in the shins.  As grudgingly loving as he can be, he's also a stubborn mule and grumpy enough to test anyone's patience.

Then again, this is quite typical of Amanda Quick heroes and heroines.  You've got a broody alpha with eccentric characteristics who is both pushy and bossy... and then you've got the feisty heroine who is the only person not intimidated by the hero, even if she gives into him every time.

Maybe one of these days, we'll get a heroine who will put her hero in the corner and forbid him anything until he learns to play nice with others, and stop being so darned bossy and manipulative.

Oh yeah, the I think the mystery was actually quite intriguing in this one as well, though I'm hard-pressed to recall much about it except that I found it most enjoyable.

by Amanda Quick
Rating:  3.5 Stars

This book was full of all sorts of Amanda Quick goodness as well as a heroine I ended up really, really loving.  Aside from how easily Sophy allowed Julian to get away with his demands and manipulations, I found Sophy an extremely wonderful heroine.  She was straight forward and kind, but not too kind to stand up for herself whenever Julian crossed the line.  I loved her arguments against Julian's haughty and arrogant, "This is not a subject for women," lectures.  That she kept poking holes in Julian's traditional views of a woman's role in marriage and society, and that she kept right on being herself was truly excellent.

I'd say that this was one of Amanda Quick's better novels, as far as I've read of her books, and really brought to light the double standards and unfairness of how women were treated with each of Sophy's arguments.  I highlighted a bunch of passages, but I'm not sure I'll be able to fit them all without stretching this post out for too long.

Meanwhile, this book IS full of standard tropes and formulaic plot devices, but I'm not going to let that bother me.  And also, I never really warmed to Julian--he stops being an ass at some point, but I didn't bother to really pinpoint when.  Sophy was the real winner in this book!

Ever Strange (Legal Magick #1)
by Alisa Woods
Rating:  3.5 Stars

While there might have been some plot holes, or even a few scenes that really made me raise my eyebrows, I actually DID find Ever Strange an extremely fun read.  Just as I'd enjoyed a few other books by Alisa Woods, I did also enjoy this book quite well... if it's any indication, I got myself drawn in and hooked and finished this book within hours of starting it.

The premise is a great one, and while I don't really read a whole lot of urban fantasy, I found that I enjoy the world created in the Legal Magick series so far, and am interested in following through with the next book.

Also, there is a lot of talk about sex magic...  (This was one of the things that had me raising my eyebrows... while at the same time becoming fascinatingly intrigued about.)

The Sittaford Mystery
by Agatha Christie
audio book narrated by Hugh Fraser
Rating:  3.0 Stars

Hmm...  Not being a prominent reader of Christie mysteries, nor of classic mysteries, I'm feeling that I must have missed something.  I've only read about three other Agatha Christie books, and this one, by far, is my least favorite.  I'm not sure it really did anything for me.

Nowhere during the investigation did I feel like I really understood its status.  The sparse few Christie novels I've already read always made me think... but I had a hard time with that during this book.  Maybe I wasn't paying well enough attention?

The truth is, the best part of this book was Hugh Fraser's narration.  And Mrs. Percehouse was quite fun, too.  But otherwise, that was about it for me.

Tightrope (Burning Cove #3)
by Amanda Quick
Rating:  3.0 Stars

One of the things I kept thinking while I was reading this book, was that there were way too many characters to keep up with.  And only a few of them are really significant to the main plot.  Also, instead of focusing on the main couple, we also backtrack to a a scene or two involving Luther Pell and Raina Kirk, the main couple from the previous book.

While this was an enjoyable Amanda Quick, much like any of her historical romance/mysteries, it certainly doesn't stray far from her typical formula.  Except that she seemed intent upon using multiple POVs, even if everything is still written in third person.  I just didn't feel like we needed that many other characters' narrations.

The book also finishes on a rather open-ended note, which makes me wonder if we're sticking with a trilogy, or if this trilogy is a precursor to another series that may follow in the next few JAK publications.  It certainly DOES connect itself to the Arcane Society books by bringing in the psychic Jones family, so that's something I'm actually kind of intrigued about.

Booklikes-opoly 2019

I read this book for BL-opoly 2019.

Roll #2:
Square: Mountain Cabin 16 | Read a book that is considered mystery/suspense genre, or which has a title that contains all of the letters in the word C-A-B-I-N.

How it fits: Book is tagged mystery/suspense.
Page Count: 320
Cash: $3

Run to Ground (Rocky Mountain K9 Unit #1)
by Katie Ruggle
Rating:  3.5 Stars

I guess I hadn't expected the content in this book to be so heavy.  On the other hand, the romance and the story that followed Jules and her siblings also lent a heart-warming, giddiness that made me enjoy the book overall.

I guess, in a nutshell, the book was entertaining enough that I would definitely follow the rest of the series.  But at the same time, there were a lot of loose plot threads, including one of the main ones, involving Jules, her secret identity, and all the secrets that she and her siblings are keeping.  It just feels so unsatisfactory, the ending, and anyone who doesn't like cliff hangers may not be amused by the way this book ends.  It's not really a cliff hanger, per se... just a really, really open-ended conclusion that I feel like could have been handled a bit better.

I wish we could have seen more of Viggy and Theo learning how to trust each other, and learning how to form a partnership.

Booklikes-opoly 2019

Roll #3: (See Also Roll #3 Activity)
Square: The Lake House 20 | Read a book that features a dog or which has a dog on the cover, or that is set in an area known for its lakes or on a fictional lake.

How it fits:  Dog on the cover.
Page Count:  416
Cash:  $5

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